Robinson impresses in rare pitching opportunity

Outfielder shows off fastball, knuckleball in scoreless inning

Robinson impresses in rare pitching opportunity

CLEVELAND -- By the fifth inning, Twins manager Paul Molitor began thinking about which position player he'd choose to take the mound if worse came to worst.

Shortly thereafter, outfielder Shane Robinson began lobbying.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Robinson said. "So I can scratch that off my bucket list now."

Starting pitcher Ervin Santana was knocked out of the game by the third inning of Saturday's 17-4 loss in Cleveland, and the Twins burned through five relievers over the next 4 2/3 innings. By the time they got to Robinson, they had used all nine members of their bullpen in the previous 24 hours.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe thought he'd be the one to get the call.

"I was like, 'No, no. You've got a little bit too much contract to get in,'" Robinson said. "'You just go ahead and stay at third base. I'll take over.'"

Robinson threw a scoreless eighth inning, walking the first batter he faced and striking out the last. He needed 14 pitches to complete the frame -- 13 fastballs that topped out at 83, and a knuckleball at 64.

Yes, a knuckleball.

"I throw the knuckleball every day," Robinson said, deadpan and serious as ever.

The knuckler was his final pitch of the day, a floater that froze Jerry Sands for strike three to end the inning. It's a pitch he's been working on since Little League, a pitch he threw for Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak in something of a pseudo-tryout for emergency pitcher during his tenure in St. Louis.

"Unfortunately, I got in with the bases loaded so I couldn't really throw it," Robinson said. "I wanted to throw it as soon as Molly gave me the ball and walked off the mound, so I asked [catcher Chris Herrmann], I said, 'Are you OK with me throwing the knuckleball?' He kind of looked around and went, 'Eh, I don't know with the bases loaded.' I was like, 'Good point.' I finished with my warmup pitches and still had a minute left. The umpire came up to me and I said, 'Hey I've only got two pitches: a fastball and a knuckleball. He goes, 'Knuckleball?' And I go, 'Yeah, so be ready for it. I'm gonna throw it.'"

After the game, Robinson watched his outing on replay and was pleased with his command.

"I saw it there on K-Zone," Robinson said. "Right on the edge."

Robinson's appearance on the mound was a lighthearted moment amid an otherwise tough stretch for the Twins, who have lost six of their last seven and are 6-15 since the All-Star break.

"Occasionally, games get out of hand like that," Robinson said. "You do your best to put it in the past and carry on with the next day. With me going out there, I think a lot of guys were pumped up about it, they came up to me after the inning and were talking to me about it. Obviously it's not where we want to be in the game, but if you can take any kind of positive about it, it was a fun time at the end."

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.